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SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  November 2002

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE November 2002

Subject:

Re: social analysis of evolutionary psych

From:

Ivan Handler <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 7 Nov 2002 09:18:39 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (107 lines)

I appreciate Lakatos over Kuhn since he seemed more pragmatic, but
Einstein seems to be the exception in both Lakatos and Kuhns modeling of
science.  According to Feuer in "Einstein and the Generations of
Science," Einstein was alienated, working outside the normal research
community and had for political/philosophical reasons rejected Newton
and embraced the field theories of  Maxwell.  He did not feel tied to
any particular research program and therefore had no reason not to focus
on anomalies (the propagation of light in a vacuum) as well as the
creative application (such as Plank's investigation of quantum effects
in black body radiation) of new discoveries to areas with no apparent
historical relation (the photoelectric effect, the existence of atoms
and molecules).

As an aside, Feuer also points out that Einstein was a regular in the
intellectual environment in Zurich.  Apparently he enjoyed debating
members of the Bolshevik party about Mach's philosophy so much that
Lenin wrote Materialism and Empirio-Criticism to challenge this within
the party.  He did not specifically mention Einstein (who was he but an
obscure worker at the patent house anyway).  I find it interesting to
imagine those time in coffee houses when this gang of Russian exiles
debated with another unknown, Einstein.  I wonder if Einstein and Lenin
every exchanged ideas.  Very interesting to think about, but not much is
really known.

Einstein's mode of behavior does not completely invalidate either Kuhn's
idea of normal science or Lakatos' ideas of institutional conservatism,
but does show that there is in fact a spectrum of behaviors that are
involved in the production of science and, similar to evolutionary
theory, it is very difficult to characterize all of the different modes
of change available.

Michael's post opened up (in my mind) the idea of investigating the
structure of the ev-psyc research program rather than continuing to spin
our wheels going over the same debates.  It seems to me that the genetic
determinist tract of ev-psy would have great appeal to modern
transnational corporations since it could lead to the invention of and
mass marketing of new technology.  Already psychology and therapy seem
to have become, in many instances, nothing more than extensions of the
pharmaceutical industry.  Who funds ev-psyc?  Who is using the research?
 I think that focusing on where corporations see making profits
(following the money) will provide for a better way to critique ev-psyc.
 This may be more narrow than taking on the whole field since my guess
is that researchers who agree with Ian will not be producing many
results that tie back to physical structures and therefore can not be
used as a basis for the creation of technology.

I think the political stand that under girds this approach is that the
social/political sphere is for the most part an independent domain of
human interaction.  A belief in democracy implies that most items within
this domain need to be handled on their own merits within the terms of
that domain.  Scientific reductionism is being used to shrink that
domain in order to help capitalism again expand its markets.  In some
sense, this is an argument for an analog to the separation between
church and state.  Back in the 18th century (and before), religious
institutions had hegemony over the social/political sphere.  In order
for a capitalist order to grow, it had to fight those institutions back
out of large portions of the domain in order that both science and
democracy could expand.  Both are the political basis of modern
capitalism.  Now we see the concept of democracy as important for all of
humanity as capitalist forces are seeing the gradual abrogation of
democracy in their material interests even in the "home" countries from
which it started.  That is of the two main social forces that capitalism
championed, classical reductionist science and democracy, capitalism is
making the choice to continue to champion reductionism and to attack
democracy.  Of course, reductionist science is only one venue that is
being used to reduce the scope of democracy for the purpose of expanding
markets, look at global media.

Doing the work to see how these research programs make hard contact with
the capitalist enterprise seems to be a more fruitful way to help people
understand what is at stake in their lives.  The abstract debates are
fun, but are old hat and do not come to terms with current conditions.

-- Ivan

Michael H Goldhaber wrote:

>The reason I prefer (my version of ) Lakatos's theory of research
>programs [see my previous post to the list] with protected cores in
>competition with one another over Kuhn's theory of paradigms  eventually
>brought low by anomalies is that Lakatos seems far more true to how
>science seems to work in practice. One doesn't jump ship without a new
>research program to which to jump, even with abundant anomalies
>surrounding the old one, nor do anomalies necessarily play much of a
>role in the foundation of new research programs. The perihelion shift of
>Mercury was known long before Einstein's General Relativity, which was
>not established to explain that result, but rather happened to turn out
>to be able to offer an explanation for it after having been invented by
>Einstein on entirely different grounds (namely his desire for a theory
>exhibiting general covariance).  Likewise, as Kuhn himself makes clear
>in his work on Planck, quantum theory also didn't arise because of any
>anomaly, but rather as an attempt to explain facts that were simply
>beyond the purview of classical theories.
>
>
--
Ivan Handler
Networking for Democracy
[log in to unmask]


--
--
Ivan Handler
Networking for Democracy
[log in to unmask]

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